Good SOA governance or success: which comes first?

New case study illustrates the difficulties in getting SOA governance in place early in the process.

I wasn't able to make it to IBM's Impact mega-conference this year, but ITWorld Canada's Kathleen Lau was there, and provides an excellent case study coming out of the event. (Link to ITWorld Canada may require registration for limited access.)

Bill Souliere, an enterprise architect with WestJet Airlines Ltd., reports that the Canadian airline initiated a service-oriented approach to redeploying its reservation system. The greatest challenge wasn't technical, but in governance of the projects associated with SOA. In the classic chicken-or-egg-first conundrum, the airline's development teams had to first prove success with its efforts before resources could be committed to effective governance. As Souliere described it:

“A lot of the governance and processes around services are being evolved while this project is happening and sometimes after the fact because you are really trying to make the project successful."

Ultimately, the airline put a business services board into place for reviewing service requests, and a technical services board to review the feasibility of the services.

Studies I have been involved with over the years always came up with the same conclusion: SOA efforts were usually bootstrapped by IT early on in the process, and didn't get attention from the business until there was some success or critical mass of services achieved. Only then was governance put in place. But without good governance, how is that initial success achievable?

Among the case studies we've covered here over the years, governance has always been the greatest challenge for SOA efforts. The perception that SOA is an “IT thing,” or that it should be controlled and managed by IT, has hampered the progression of service orientation in many companies. With SOA, every department should be the “owner” of the initiative, and play a role in the governance committee or team that oversees deployment decisions. The IT department should be but one player in the SOA scenario, and should serve as the “administrative” arm of the SOA infrastructure.


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